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He rebuilt his custom homes company and accelerated profits

By Verne Harnish 

Tim Winter, CEO of Paradigm Building Group, was frustrated with his business. He was the main salesperson for the custom home builder, which then had five employees. He had been flat on his back with a herniated disk for five months in 2017. In the wake of that crisis, leads were only trickling in, cash was very tight as lumber costs rose, and debt was coming due.

Fortunately, Winter had gotten to know Trey House, a Scaling Up certified coach, through a Christian men’s group he belongs to, and confided about his struggles. They began working together in December 2019 to apply the Scaling Up platform to Paradigm.

Working with a coach was just what Winter needed to turn the situation around. “I thrive in a one-on-one accountability setting,” he says.

In 2020, Paradigm did $5 million in construction volume. For 2021, the now seven-employee company is on pace for $10 million and expects to almost double its profit. Even better, with residential real estate booming, Paradigm already has a backlog of $7 million for 2022 as it works toward its Big Hairy Audacious Goal: To be the number one builder by volume, and by client and employee feedback, in each market it serves. 

All of Winter’s efforts to build a sustainable company have opened up another opportunity: to continue giving back. His wife, Jennifer, who runs marketing for the company, also serves as executive director of the nonprofit Paradigm Foundation. Since 2014, the foundation has built houses around the globe for impoverished people, in partnership with churches in their communities. It has built more than 40 homes in Brazil, the Dominican Republic and Kenya. The company brings its team to some of these communities for vision trips, something that was put on hold temporarily during COVID-19. “We’ll probably do our first trip in August, now that we’re vaccinated,” says Winter.

Tim Winter, CEO of Paradigm Building Group

Here is how Winter positioned his company for growth and continuing philanthropy using the Scaling Up platform. 

Clearing bottlenecks

When Paradigm’s vice president of operations resigned in July 2020, Winter saw an opportunity to speed up workflow in the office by dividing his work among two people. He assigned some of the work to a team member whom the operations chief had already mentored and the rest to a career-changing teacher who started as an intern and transitioned to a full-time role as assistant office manager. “They’ve been phenomenal,” says Winter. 

Creating a strategic plan

A critical part of positioning Paradigm for growth was deciding on a clear strategy for the company. To that end, Winter worked with his coach on the One Page Strategic Plan (OPSP). Beyond coming up with a BHAG, one key step in aligning the team was drafting Core Values, such as “Own It! “ “Be Consistent!” and “Got Your Back!”

Completing the OPSP also helped the company define its Purpose—to create lasting impact—by building relationships with customers, delivering superior quality to them and creating lasting memories—and create a statement of that Purpose: “Paradigm will honor God through its daily efforts consistent with biblical values and practices.” 

Beyond that, Paradigm drafted a Brand Promise: Love 100% of your home! And the leadership team put into words a One-Phrase Strategy: “Always be building, so we can be billing and continue promoting by putting signs on streets.” By putting signs on the streets, they mean signs that advertise the builder doing the construction. “It creates a virtuous cycle,” says Winter. 

Keeping the team aligned

Winter, by his own description, is a classic visionary type entrepreneur—very comfortable leading his team in getting things done, but not as process-oriented. He worked with House to create a flywheel that shows the steps in the business cycle that lead to continual business growth:

  • The Product—truly unique custom homes—had to be built on time and on budget.
  • The Process of working with clients needed to be thoughtful and tailored to each family. 
  • The company’s People—top craftsman, vendors and internal talent—were responsible for delivering diverse, quality finishes.
  • Paradigm’s Production would be designed to support unlimited finish options utilizing proven and superior materials.
  • The company’s Promotion efforts would create “customer advocates” who provided referrals and helpful testimonials. 

They also worked together to put into place the systems the company needed to execute on its strategy. To make sure the company was delivering on its promises, Winter and his team hold Daily Huddles. On Tuesdays, they hold individual team meetings, pre-construction team meetings, sales team meetings and the like. They also schedule monthly, quarterly and annual meetings. “We’re very deadline focused on all of our projects,” says Winter. “We’re in a business that moves fast and needs to turn projects relatively fast.”

Getting profits flowing

As a result of Paradigm’s efforts, the company’s revenue and profit will be about twice what it was last year. Meanwhile, Winter and his team have accelerated the cash conversion cycle—something hard to achieve in the past—by staying laser-focused on meeting deadlines. “We don’t make money until we start construction of the homes,” says Winter. “It used to take us six or seven months to start a project. Now we’re doing it in four months.” That’s making all the difference in keeping his company on the fast track to scaling up.

Verne Harnish
Verne Harnish
Verne Harnish is founder of the world-renowned Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) and chaired for fifteen years EO’s premiere CEO program, the “Birthing of Giants” and WEO’s “Advanced Business” executive program both held at MIT. Founder and CEO of Gazelles, a global executive education and coaching company with over 150 coaching partners on six continents, Verne has spent the past three decades helping companies scale-up. The “Growth Guy” syndicated columnist, he’s also the Venture columnist for FORTUNE magazine. He’s the author of Scaling Up (Rockefeller Habits 2.0); Mastering the Rockefeller Habits; and along with the editors of Fortune, authored The Greatest Business Decisions of All Times," for which Jim Collins wrote the foreword. Verne also chairs FORTUNE Magazine’s annual Leadership and Growth Summits and serves on several boards including chairman of The Riordan Clinic and the newly launched Geoversity. He is an investor in many scale-ups. A father of four, he enjoys piano, tennis, and magic as a card-carrying member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians.